Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Trump's Budget Gets The Coal-ed Shoulder In Kentucky

Trump came to Louisville last night to sell Trumpcare and coal jobs to the Bluegrass State.  The people at the rally were certainly buying, but it doesn't mean everyone was.

Trump pledged to rework trade deals, bolster the military, build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and put coal miners back to work. Trump also pledged that the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act would pass the House of Representatives on Thursday, only hours after U.S. Sen. Rand Paul told a group of Louisville businessmen that it would fail. 
“It’s a financial disaster waiting to happen right here in your own state,” Trump said, bashing the signature health care legislation of his predecessor. “Thursday is our chance to eliminate Obamacare and the Obamacare disaster in our country.” 
Trump, who was introduced by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, pointed out Republican U.S. Reps. Andy Barr and Jamie Comer in the audience, all of whom have said they support the GOP’s health plan. 
Trump offered few details about the bill or changes he’d like to see, instead taking the stance that it will look different after it gets through both the House and the Senate. 
“The end result is going to be wonderful, and it’s going to work great,” Trump said. 
The audience enthusiastically applauded Trump’s message on health care, but some of the biggest applause of the night came when Trump talked about returning coal jobs to Kentucky. 
“We are going to put our coal miners back to work,” Trump said, repeating a campaign pledge popular in Appalachia.

Only one problem: Kentucky Republicans are pissed at the Trump's proposed budget cuts, and here the Trump budget cuts fall apart as we run into the reality of sacred cows.  It's Republicans who are going to have to own these nearly $60 billion in cuts for 2018 and they're not going to do it.  Case in point, Kentucky Republicans are definitely not going to go along with Trump's plans to kill jobs programs for out-of-work coal miners.

During the campaign, Donald Trump billed himself as the “last shot” for coal country. He alone could save regions like Appalachia that had long suffered from poverty and dwindling coal jobs. And voters in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky believed him — choosing Trump over Hillary Clinton by wide, wide margins.

So it’s striking that President Trump’s first budget proposal would slash and burn several key programs aimed at promoting economic development in coal regions — most notably, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration. In recent years, these programs have focused on aiding communities that have been left behind as mining jobs vanished.

Even some of Trump’s staunchest allies were livid at the proposed cuts. “I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, a senior House Republican from a key coal-mining district in southeastern Kentucky.

Remember, Rogers is the old warhorse for the KY GOP, on the House Appropriations Committee.  He's been in the House since the Reagan Revolution, and nobody's come close to beating him, period.  In those 36 years the closest contest he had was merely a double-digit thrashing of his opponent, as compared to the 50-point margins he's won by since. The man's literally had a parkway named after him here. If there's anyone who should be safe voting for the Trump budget, it's Hal Rogers.

And if this has got him scared enough to speak out against Trump, it's serious.

First, Trump’s proposing to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an independent agency set up in 1965 “to address the persistent poverty and growing economic despair of the Appalachian Region.” Since October 2015, the ARC has invested $175.7 million in 662 projects around the region, with a disproportionate focus on “distressed” counties and coal towns. In some places, that means new highways or broadband infrastructure. In others, it means grants to help former coal communities develop, say, outdoor recreation industries instead.

A government review estimated that, last year, the ARC created or saved at least 23,000 jobs and provided 25,500 households with infrastructure services such as water or broadband. There have been criticisms of the program over the years — it’s odd to have a standalone agency for this one region, and the ARC often focuses on bigger towns and neglects rural areas — but it’s also broadly popular with Democrats and Republicans alike in Appalachia.

Second, Trump is proposing to zero out the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which sits within the Commerce Department and provides about $250 million per year in grants to support economic growth in certain regions. During the Obama years, the EDA began devoting a sizable portion of that money to coal communities around the country that were suffering economically as cheap natural gas and new air pollution rules shriveled the coal industry. (The EDA also supports non-coal communities, providing trade adjustment assistance and other services.)

Needless to say, Rogers is furious.

It’s unclear if the White House conferred with coal-state politicians before proposing these cuts. Rogers, who helped double the ARC’s budget as chair of the House Appropriations Committee from 2011 to 2016, was absolutely scathing in response:

"While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive.

In particular, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has a long-standing history of bipartisan support in Congress because of its proven ability to help reduce poverty rates and extend basic necessities to communities across the Appalachian region. Today, nearly everyone in the region has access to clean water and sewer, the workforce is diversifying, educational opportunities are improving and rural technology is finally advancing to 21st Century standards. But there is more work to be done in these communities, and I will continue to advocate for sufficient funding for ARC and similar programs, like the Economic Development Administration."

I'd say if Hal is typical, then the Trump/Ryan austerity plan is DOA. Even Mitch the Turtle is assuring everyone that the cuts to ARC and EDA will never happen.

We'll see who wins this battle, but I assure you that Kentucky workers will lose either way now that the GOP is in total control.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/latest-news/article139644553.html#storylink=cpy

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